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Thursday, March 13, 2014

Why You Should Follow The Tournament of Books: A RA Perspective

I can’t believe I missed the start of The Morning News’ Tournament of Books, but the first round is currently underway.

In case you are new to the ToB, click here for the basic run down.

But if you are a fan of reading...anything...for fun...anytime...you will love following the ToB. I promise.  If I am wrong, you are a liar and you don’t love reading as much as you think you do.

Each day they have 2 books from the previous year, so in this case 2013, squaring off in a March Madness bracket style, so that the titles get narrowed down to 1 final winner.  The final match is judged by all of the judges for fairness.  Click here to see the entire 2013 ToB IX.

There is a judge, normally themselves an award winning author, who writes a long commentary on how the two book stack up against one and other.  Each official judge’s commentary and ruling is then followed by a commentary on that specific match and how it played out by The Morning News editors, Kevin Guilfoile and John Warner.

Here’s why this process is so great for you as a reader.  First, these books are not judged in a vacuum.   All of the books in the tourney have already been through that process and have been determined among the best books of the previous year.  Reading another author’s take on how a specific book fairs when paired with another specific book is fascinating.  Is it unfair? Probably, yes.  Depending on what you are against and by whom it is being judged, both of those factors can help predetermine the outcome.

But, is it fun? Heck yeah.  As a book lover and reader, I simply adore reading the judge’s commentaries themselves.  Because the matches are judged by award winning authors, I often feel like the commentary they provide to pick a winner reads like a short story in and of itself. Also, since it is so arbitrary, the entire thing both validates and satirizes the awards process-- simultaneously.  I love that too.

And Kevin and John playing the part of the “regular reader” is great for placing the match within the context of the entire tourney and the larger literary world.

So even if you are not a traditional literary fiction fan, I highly suggest you follow the ToB because doing so is like reading a novel about the best novels of 2013. It is the most fun year in a review you will even experience.

I even think it is worth going back and re-reading the commentaries from past years.  Why? You will find many good backlist options for your patrons.  And, because the commentaries are so well done, you will gather great appeal information about the titles, making it easier to book talk them to your readers.  And, with older titles, there is sure to be a few lurking in the stacks.

Wow, that was a lot of “Ands.”  But seriously, the ToB, all 10 years of it, is a gold mine of fabulous reading suggestions, with annotations written for you by other awesome authors.  This is almost too easy!  So start using the ToB as your new RA tool, and keep using it all year long.

Click here for the current match.  Scroll down in the right gutter for links to past year’s tourneys too.

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